Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Gospel: Mark 6:1-13

A reading from the Gospel of Mark.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus] came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


“All are welcome” proclaim on outdoor signs or the signs above the entrances to many of our congregations. I hope so! Too often the assembled group of the body of Christ have told too many other members: “You are not welcome here.” Jesus wept. And it’s not just congregations. 

Lots of families have told folks for one reason or another that they are not part of the family, the community or our country. Again, all too often people are told: “Leave if you don’t like it or cannot contort yourself to fit in!” 


In the first half of the Gospel reading, Jesus was un-welcomed. People in his hometown took offense at Jesus’ teaching and miracles (Mark 6:3). Who doesn’t like a miracle or to marvel at brilliant teaching? Jesus’ actions weren’t the problem, per se—it’s that he was the one who performed them. Jesus was a Nazarene so how dare he act like a traveling miracle worker or prophet?

In about two months we will again return to the Gospel of Mark and learn about the “Evil Eye,” the universal spirit of jealousy that infuriates people when someone is different. That is what is going on here. The people who knew Jesus and his family insisted on his sameness. When Jesus demonstrated his difference and tried to celebrate the blessing that his unique identity meant for the people, they opposed him. The Messiah was unable to do works of power because he was not welcomed as himself (Mark 6:5).

This experience of exclusion makes such a deep impact on Jesus that he framed gospel faithfulness in terms of welcome. In the third story, he specifically sent his disciples out without provisions so they would need to be welcomed. Their message wasn’t particularly popular: “You must repent!” Still, Jesus insisted that faithful Jews would open their houses to his disciples. In the places where they were welcomed, they healed the sick and cast out demons. 

In the places where they weren’t welcomed, they shook the dust off their feet as testimony against them. Jesus insists on welcome for his followers or consequences for those who turn them away.

Exclusion has no place in the body of Christ. Of course, Jesus gives commands about how abusers who refuse to repent and make restitution are to be treated (Matthew 18:15-17), and that includes a willingness to re-welcome into fellowship a person who demonstrates a sincere desire to follow the ways of Jesus. The three examples from this week testify that God’s kingdom operates on a foundation of intentional welcome and acceptance of people as they are. May we do exactly that in order to receive and share welcome for all God’s beloved children.


This week as we celebrated our freedom as a nation, I still questioned myself whether or not all people in this great country have freedom. I’m not talking about following driving laws, or things like that we all have to obey. But as a White, Heterosexual,  Middle-aged, Middle-class Male I have a lot of freedoms in this country that others are supposed to have, but don’t necessarily do.

We should have known better as a country with our recent history as a nation compared to other parts of the world. We ought to have realized that the demons of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism and racism have never been cast out of our nation’s soul. They are and always have been essential elements of our cultural DNA. Like a recessive gene, they can skip a generation, lie dormant for a spell fulminating in the darkness of locker rooms, smoke filled bars and backyard barbeques. But eventually, they erupt like a cancerous sore into the public square and metastasize into systemic illness.

Hopefully Rowan has a Civil Rights experience like I did, listening to people who can still recall the struggle for racial equality and civil rights. We can learn from hearing about the hard fought battles by courageous women for equality, reproductive freedom and access to the professions.

The days when merely being suspected of being gay could turn you into a social pariah, get you fired from your job and perhaps get you killed. We all assumed that the progress made in these areas was permanent. Now, there remained much to be done, but we were convinced that a solid foundation had been established upon which to build. In fact, there have always been forces at work undermining that foundation. It was never as secure as we thought it was. We should not have been shocked or surprised to see it crumble. These people are not” fringe” folk. They are American every bit as much as the rest of us.

Before someone thinks I preaching partisanship here, I want to be clear that this not is about the upcoming election. No matter who occupies the Whitehouse in January of 2025, the demonic spirits inspiring hatred and violence will still be among us. They always have been. The mob that attacked the capital in 2021 is essentially the same mob that burned down thirty-five acres of the Black commercial district of Tulsa known as Greenwood in 1921 killing as many as three-hundred people. Current and proposed legislation limiting the reproductive rights of women is based on the same rationale employed by the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage in 1911, namely, that women lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves. The Hitleresque rhetoric of “poisoning” American blood has been spewed to us by the German American Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939. Racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and xenophobia are as American as apple pie. We cannot with integrity insist with moral indignation that “this is not who we are.” It infects our schools, our neighborhoods and it sits with us each weekend in the pews of our churches.   

Preaching this stuff after a celebratory holiday like Independence Day might not seem like a good idea. Amidst the noise of fireworks, “God Bless America” and patriotic speeches, truthful speech about our nation and its culture strike a chord. Nobody wants to hear that America is sick around the Fourth of July. Still less popular is the sad truth that this sickness has infected the church as well and that within the church is precisely where we need to start treating it. Healing ourselves will be painful. Genuine repentance always is. But ecclesiastical (community) healing is urgently needed. The one, holy, catholic and apostolic church that knows no racial, tribal or national borders exists to give us a better vision of what it means to be human. The church exists to expose the empty promises made by the false gods of nation, race, blood and soil that would distort our image of God and turn us against one another. It is to be a living witness that the human family is one.

Jesus knew, as did the Hebrew prophets, that “prophets are not without honor, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”  In our lesson from the Hebrew scriptures Ezekiel is warned that his words might not be heeded. Nevertheless, “whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.” Ezekiel 2:5. Ezekiel did not live to see the effects of his preaching. For all we know, he may have died wondering whether he had wasted his life speaking words nobody was hearing. But his words, preserved in some way, shape or form, brought understanding and hope to an exiled community and inspired that community to rise up from the ashes of defeat to welcome a new day. It is God’s responsibility to fulfill God’s word. Our only job is to proclaim it.


In closing, I have sometimes been accused of being an “America hater.” I do not hate America—anymore than Jesus and the Hebrew prophets hated Judah and Israel. Actually, there is much that I love about this country. 

  • I love its cultural richness and diversity. 
  • I love the many different communities in which I have lived and the way in which people of diverse views, conflicting interests and unique backgrounds so often come together to solve problems and work together for the common good. 
  • I love each of our great cities and their unique characters and histories. 
  • I love our wilderness areas. 
  • I also love the commitment so many Americans have displayed in seeking to make the values of freedom and equality real for all of us. 

But love brings with it some difficult responsibilities. When you see that one of your relatives or friends has a serious drinking problem that is destroying their life and harming those dear to them, you don’t turn a blind eye. You don’t ignore the obvious or make excuses that enable them to continue on with their self destructive behavior. You confront them with the truth. You make them face their dependence. You make them see the consequences of their behavior. Then you offer to walk with them on their journey to recovery. People do the same for the country they love and expect more from also.

We need to talk about those consequences and then journey together to recover.